Five for Friday: On Geography…Five Quotes for Friday


“Without geography you’re nowhere.”
–Jimmy Buffet (1946–) I’m not sure if he was the first to
coin the phrase, but the statement has recently been attributed to legendary
singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffet. I want to know: If changes in latitudes in fact
yield changes in attitudes, as his album title implies,
where exactly on the map is Margaritaville?!

“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”

–Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), American writer.
Quick: Find Iraq and Afghanistan
on a map!

“A little instruction in cartography–a little practice in the use of
the compass and the spirit level, a topographical map of the town common, an
excursion with a road map–would have given me a fat round earth in place of my
paper ghost.”

–Mary Antin (1881-1949), U.S. socialite and author, born in Russia,
on the deficiencies of geography teaching in elementary schools….proving that the need for more geography in schools is
nothing new!

“Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely
free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting
because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about
forms, about images and imaginings.”

–Edward Said (1935-2003), Palestinian-American philosopher,
famous for his writings on Postcolonialism and Orientalism.
I dig this quote because there’s so much to unpack, so many
rich geographic concepts! Many tend to think of geography as static, but Said
reveals the dynamism of both physical and human geographies. Political borders–which
exist in “real space,” and are often guided by physical features like rivers
and mountain ranges, but are ultimately human constructs–change and are frequently
contested. As such, battles over these physical borders are not just conflicts
over land, but clashes of culture over ideas and values. Some of this
distinction between physical/political and cultural borders is embodied in the
concept of states vs.

“It is not down on any map. True places never are.”
–Herman Melville (1819-1891), American
author, in his masterpiece Moby-Dick.

I’ll leave it to our readers to
take a stab at interpreting this last quote. What do you think Moby-Dick’s
narrator meant, and how is it relevant to geography today?

(*This might be the answer to the question I posed to Jimmy
Buffet earlier!)

3 thoughts on “Five for Friday: On Geography…Five Quotes for Friday

  1. I’m so pumped to see Jimmy Buffet featured on the MWW blog! His songs, and ESPCIALLY his novels, include a plethora of vivid geographic descriptions. This isn’t surprising, being that he is an avid traveler and pilot. His way with words makes learning geography fun (assuming you like to read about the Southeast USA and Caribbean regions). The next time you’re on a beach vacation, and need some light reading, you can’t beat Jimmy’s books. In fact, I’m pretty sure my family vacation to Key West was directly related to listening to Buffet’s CDs during cold upstate NY winters!
    “Margaritaville” is a state of mind… it can be anywhere… its all about your relation to the place, and that’s how I would answer the last question – “true places” have special meaning. They’re not merely points on a map… they’re so much more – memories, emotions, etc. You don’t need a map to find them, because they’re with you all the time!

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